The Definition of Success

What is success? What are its indicators? As a younger minister, I was driven by all the definitions from the “professional church community”. According to the “experts”, a certain number in worship attendance defined success. Or the amount of money collected defined success. According to these criteria, I was successful in some churches and unsuccessful in others. 

What does God say about success? Does it have anything to do with money or personal possessions? Can you be broke and be successful in God’s economy? I’ll let you decide based upon the only verse where the word “success” is used in Scripture.

Joshua 1:8 says, “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” God says nothing about possessions. God measures success by what you and I do with the Word of God. Do we meditate on and obey Scripture? If the answer is yes, then we are measured by God as successful. If the answer is no, we may only be successful by the world’s standards. God won’t care about the money we made nor the accolades nor the accomplishments in our workplace if we were not obedient to Him. 

Based on God’s definition, what do you want for your life? Do you want to waste your time with attention, possessions, and things that won’t go with you when you die? Or would you prefer to potentially do without these things and focus on pleasing God? You can have both, but obedience to Christ outweighs anything else. Are you willing to pay the price for God-success?


A Tribute to a Class Act

In 2001, God sent me to serve Emmanuel Baptist Church and Christian School in Hartsville, SC. There was a widow named Myrtle who was one among many who loved us and took us in like family. My first impression was that she was very prim and proper and did not joke around. I had the element of class correct, but I seriously underestimated the sense of humor. 

She joined the choir within a year after I got there. She invited us out to eat, to other functions, and eventually to her home. Any meal she prepared was always enough for an army, and she would apologize for it not being enough. We would laugh. She was a queen of hospitality.

She was someone who endured a lot in her life. Her daughter preceded her in death by over 50 years, yet she handled it with such grace and was able to help others who went through something similar. She had many health issues, yet she bounced off many times. I often joked with Myrtle and said she would sing at my funeral. She would laugh and tell me how I wouldn’t want that. We shared many laughs together.

She was a lady who was highly respected by those in Hartsville who knew her. People were quick to bring her food, mow her grass, and do anything she needed. Myrtle was just as quick (if not quicker) to do for others. She cared for the sick even when she wasn’t feeling 100 percent. She modeled selflessness, and many admired it.

She was a wise lady. Whenever I needed guidance, I would call her. She would always give a good answer because she had a great deal of life experience. When I was getting ready to Pastor my first church, she said, “Matthew, you won’t be there more than a year. I know you, and I know that area and you won’t be a good match.” I knew she was right, yet I sensed God was leading me there for some reason.

This morning, she saw her Savior face to face after 92 years of life. She followed her sister only by two earthly days (time doesn’t matter in eternity). She is reunited with her husband, daughter, siblings, other relatives, and friends who preceded her. 

Myrtle was a class act. I’m thankful that God used her for 15 years to be a blessing in my life. Due to changes in my life, I was unable to see her for the last 3 years of her life. We would talk on the phone periodically and catch up. I was able to talk to her on the phone 3 months ago. She was not well that day, but she chose to talk to me for an hour despite the fact that she did not feel up to it. I offered to let her rest, but she insisted on talking.

I look around and pray that God will raise up some more Myrtles. She wasn’t world-renowned, but she left a lasting impression on all who met her. Please join me in praying for her family and all those who grieve.

Time for a Change (Again)

After several months of the same layout, I thought it was time for a change. Just like the website design was in a rut and predictable, our lives so easily become that. We fall into the trap of doing the same old thing because it is easy and comfortable. If we do the same thing, we get the same results.

If you are a Christian, God definitely does not want you in a rut. The Christian life can be the most exciting adventure if you are truly seeking God. I would have easily remained in my comfort zone of Portsmouth, Virginia had God not called me into ministry. I would have never had the opportunities I was afforded so early in life had I played it safe.

Maybe you are reading this today and you are not satisfied with your life. I am not saying that every season of dissatisfaction has anything to do with God. If you are truly seeking Him through prayer and Scripture, He will reveal if this unrest is something He is placing in your life. The bottom line is that God wants you growing. Second Peter 3:18 commands us to grow in His grace and knowledge.

How are we doing in this area? Are we in the place where we were 3 years ago, or are we taking steps or even leaps of faith? Maybe it’s time for a change!

Love Ain’t Got Nothing to Do with This!

Gotta love my grammar, right? I preached a 3-week series called “What’s Love Got to Do with It?”. Today, I talked about something love has nothing to do with – fear. First John 4:18 says that perfect love casts out fear.

We all are afraid of something. It may be strange like the fear of hair, bathing, or peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth. For most of us, these fears are more like the fear of what others think of us, the fear of failure, or the fear of being lonely. Fear is a natural response of the flesh, but it is not a discipline of the Spirit.

  1. Fear is not from God (2 Timothy 1:7). God has not given us the spirit of fear. The devil is ultimately behind it, but we have some responsibility in choosing to operate continually in fear.
  2. Fear is not rooted in faith. It is the opposite of trust. Furthermore, it is a misplace of trust. We begin to trust in our circumstances rather than in the God who is in control over our circumstances.
  3. Fear is not rooted in facts. These facts are the promises of God. We are promised God’s presence, yet we feel like He has left us alone. He has promised to fight for us, yet we try to do things in our own strength. He has promised to provide, yet we try to help Him out with credit cards, loans, and more extreme measures. Fear is not rooted in the promises of God.
  4. Fear is rooted in improper focus. Matthew 14 illustrates this well. Jesus was walking on the water. Simon Peter says, “Lord, if it’s You, ask me to come out onto the water.” Of course Jesus was going to take him up on the offer. Peter walks on the water until his focus becomes improper. When Peter takes his eyes off Jesus, he sinks. When we focus on Jesus, our fears become lost in Him.
  5. Fear is rooted in feelings. We are emotional beings who often allow our emotions to overrule. Sheryl Crow sang, “If it makes you happy, then why…are you so sad?”. When we live by feelings, we are never fulfilled.
  6. Fear is a trap. Proverbs 29:25 calls it a “snare”. Fear causes stagnation because we never take risks. Fear makes us lose self-confidence because we ultimately do not think we can do anything even with God’s power. It makes us pessimistic, always expecting the worst.
  7. Fear should be a part of our past. Notice what Romans 8:15 says: “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’.” When you and I entered a relationship with Christ, God did not give us the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear. Fear should have no place in the life of the child of God, yet we have to fight it daily.

Fear is a choice. We do not have to worry and fear, yet we choose to do so. What are your fears? Are you willing to replace your fear with faith and proper focus on Jesus? Today is your day to be set free!